Mantoo at Chopan Kabob Kitchener
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Chopan Kabob has been in business for five or six years or so. It’s solidly a family-run operation that has continued to serve curbside pickup and delivery during the pandemic.
Theirs is a story of world political struggle — the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1980s — as described tangentially in this column, previously published in the Kitchener Post.
The outcome of that horrific war for the Jamali family was a positive one, including some great food being prepared in the Belmont-Highland neighbourhood of Kitchener.
Make sure you support small businesses such as these, as you are able!
200 Highland Road West
Kitchener, ON N2M 3C2
The origin and success of Chopan Kabob on Highland Road West near Belmont Avenue is, to my thinking, something that makes Canada great.
Tucked into the small food-hub of a plaza with McMullen’s and the popular Highland Halal Shawarma, Chopan Kabob opened for business about five or six years ago.
The story of owner Wali Jamali and his family is, frankly, a moving and inspiring one.
Jamali arrived in Canada from Afghanistan in 1989 having fled a country torn by the Soviet-Afghan guerilla (and mostly rural) war that started a decade earlier when Brezhnev invaded the country, killed the Afghani president and put in place a puppet Soviet government.
The war killed hundreds of thousands of people.
Soon after he arrived in Ontario, Jamali enrolled in computer systems at Conestoga College and worked at various jobs in the industry and others—but he wanted more satisfaction in what he was doing.
So, he and the family bought an existing restaurant and re-branded it Chopan Kabob; they’ve never looked back.
Their success has been such that they renovated the restaurant just a few months ago to give it a bright and new interior.
“I decided it was better to have your own business, so we opened the restaurant,” he says. “Since we opened Chopan Kabob, I’ve been so happy. We are all together. My children go to university now, but they come back here, so it is like a home.”
The venue, right beside Kishki World Foods, is often hopping busy with take-away orders from the nearby neighbourhoods.
The family and the food they cook adds an important—and delicious—layer of flavour to the neighbourhood and the city.
Afghani dishes include a delicious fried pumpkin and masala sauce, beef chaplee, bolani (a scrumptious stuffed dough) and kabulee palao, a delicious version of pilaf that includes grilled carrots and raisins.
Firnee pudding is an Afghani dessert with cardamom and pistachio. Prices at Chopan Kabob range from $6-$22.
“The food is mostly Afghani,” says Jamali, “but we have a few Indian dishes. We advertise that because people recognize Indian food.”
However, the Afghani mantoo dish is currently my favourite. The dish’s origin is uncertain, but it is popular in central and western Asia and the Caucasus.
When Mongolians conquered Afghanistan centuries ago, this dish came with them, according to Jamali. “It’s not traditionally Afghani, but the Afghanis changed it a little bit.”
Virtually every nation has a dumpling or some sort of thin pasta envelope containing a meat or vegetable stuffing which is boiled, steamed or panfried.
Mantoo is a simple dough, lightly fried onions, ground beef with black pepper and coriander seed that is steamed dumpling-style. A meat and tomato sauce and split yellow peas top the dish, and it’s served with a lightly garlicky yogurt sauce.
That dish makes me happy—at same time Jamali enjoys sharing the cuisine of his heritage to his guests.
“We have good customers,” he says. “They know us and we know them. I’m just so happy. Business is good.”